The Chinese Ministry of National Defense yesterday expressed regret after the US withdrew an invitation to China to attend a major US-hosted naval drill, saying that closing the door does not promote mutual trust and cooperation.
The Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise, which China has previously attended, is billed as the world’s largest international maritime exercise and is held every two years in Hawaii in June and July.
RIMPAC enabled the two nations’ militaries to directly engage with each other, and was viewed by both as a way to ease tensions and reduce the risk of miscalculation should they meet under less friendly circumstances.
The Pentagon said the withdrawal of the invitation was in response to what it sees as Beijing’s militarization of artificial islands built in the South China Sea.
The US had “ignored the facts and hyped up the so-called ‘militarization’ of the South China Sea,” using it as an excuse to uninvite China, the ministry said in a statement.
“This decision by the United States is not constructive. Closing the door to communication at any time is not conducive toward promoting mutual trust and communication,” it added.
The ministry reiterated that its building of defense facilities on the islands was to protect the nation’s sovereignty and legitimate rights.
“The United States has no right to make irresponsible remarks about this,” it added. “Being invited or not cannot change China’s will to play a role in protecting peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, and cannot shake China’s firm determination to defend its sovereignty and security interests.”
The Global Times said in an editorial there was no way China could trade its interests in the South China Sea for access to the exercise.
“If the US military increases its activities in the South China Sea, then our side will need to further strengthen its military deployments there,” it said.
China has sovereign rights in the sea and it is not realistic for the US to use this kind of action to try to coerce Beijing, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Lu Kang (陸慷) told a separate briefing.
Lu also said that Beijing has found no clues to explain what happened to a US citizen working at the US consulate in Guangzhou, China, who reportedly experienced “abnormal” sounds and pressure leading to a mild brain injury.
The US embassy in Beijing on Wednesday issued a health alert to Americans living in China in the wake of incident.
China has always safeguarded the security of foreign organizations and personnel of foreign nations, including the US, according to the Vienna Convention, Lu said.
“China has already conducted an earnest investigation and we have also given initial feedback to the US side,” Lu said.
The US Department of State is sending a team to Guangzhou early next week to conduct basic medical evaluations of all consulate employees who request it, department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.
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